Over the past 78 years since World War II began in 1941, how many U.S. senators has North Carolina elected to send to Washington?
Go ahead. See you if can list them from memory:
Bailey, Reynolds, Broughton, Hoey, Smith, Ervin, Scott, Jordan, Helms, Morgan, East, Sanford, Faircloth, Edwards, Dole, Burr, Kagan, Tillis. Four others were appointed to fill an unexpired term but did not win the next election, which means North Carolina has had 22 different U.S. senators since 1941.
Other states have sent relatively few senators to Washington. South Carolina has elected nine: Smith, Hall, Maybank, Johnston, Thurmond, Hollings, Graham, DeMint, Scott. Mississippi has elected six: Eastland, Stennis, Cochran, Lott, Wicker and Hyde-Smith.
Compared to other Southern states, North Carolina has been a revolving door for U.S. senators.
On top of the electoral merry-go-round, no senator other than Lauch Faircloth got appointed to the Senate Appropriations Committee. None ever served on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee which is the queen bee of all subcommittees in the U.S. Senate.
Sen. Lee Overman served 21 years on Senate Appropriations, including as ranking member.
Overman died in 1930. Eleven years before WWII. Eighty-nine years ago. Almost a century. Let that sink in a little bit.
Sen. Lauch Faircloth was appointed to the D.C. Subcommittee of Senate Appropriations for two short years with the hopes that it would help his re-election in 1998.
If a U.S. senator from North Carolina ever did get appointed to Defense Appropriations, it would be one of the few cases where literally one person could help transform a state’s economy.
When a U.S. senator gets on Defense Approps, they can steer large-scale defense manufacturing contracts to their home state. The level of advanced technology training for defense manufacturing jobs goes way up for their constituents as well as their salaries.
Once workers in a state start building advanced military armaments, other industries move to the state to take advantage of a highly trained qualified pool of workers. Those jobs will never go overseas either.
There are myriad reasons why defense companies locate a new facility in any state. North Carolina is the only Southern state that does not have a major defense manufacturing installation. North Carolina is also the only Southern state that does not have a major automobile manufacturing facility such as the BMW plants in South Carolina or Volkswagon in Tennessee.
Coincidence, perhaps? Possibly.
However, as one defense contractor told me when I was working with a coalition to recruit defense industry to North Carolina: “We are very impressed by the rapid prototyping we see in the NASCAR shops. Call me when you get a North Carolinian on Defense Approps and then we can talk.”
If you need proof that one U.S. senator can transform a state from a perch on Defense Appropriations, look no further than the defense contracting facilities in Alaska, of all places.
Alaska is 48th in population. It is cold, remote, barren and far away from major distribution and shipment channels.
Alaska is fifth in the nation in terms of dollar amount of defense manufacturing contracts received.
Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska served as Appropriations chair for forever, it seemed. He also served as chairman of the Defense Subcommittee for a long time before his death in 2010. Billions of dollars of defense contracts flowed to defense contractors who set up operations in Alaska, which then flowed down to thousands of workers who otherwise might be unemployed.
Whoever you vote for in the 2020 U.S. Senate election, ask them to please get on the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee for the sake of future jobs in the state. Imagine what can be done when NASCAR engineers start designing tanks and drones for the 21st century.